September Hope Whispers

 

God Is Still With Us
Through the Storms of Life

Three tornados whipped through Sioux Falls this month, causing damage and devastation to some businesses and homes. There were injuries, but thankfully no deaths.

Avera Heart Hospital was among the buildings damaged. They shared a photo of a chunk of wood that broke through the lobby window. Do you see the cross?

Our windows may be broken, our building damaged, but even during the roar of the storm, God shows up.” Avera shared.

God still sends hope in the midst of life’s storms. It may not always “feel” like it in the midst of anguish and devastation, but He is holding us up. He never backs out on a promise!

“And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20b

God Can Turn Our Struggling Stories
Into Hope For Other Strugglers

Do you ever watch America’s Got Talent? I’m not always able to, but I like watching it, especially during the finals. What I love the most are the stories where tragedy turns to triumph. This year’s winner is Kodi Lee, a blind and autistic young man who plays piano and sings so beautifully and with such heart. Though this song was not his final one, “Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters” was one of my favorites.

There were other contestants who are winners, too. By sharing their stories of pain and using their gifts, they will continue to make a difference by breathing hope into hopeless, broken hearts.

Tyler suffered leukemia at age 4 and was bullied in school because of his lack of hair. He turned to music in a violin and is now not only an 11-year-old cancer survivor but a remarkable violinist who gives hope to other children with cancer.

Voices of Service, military members who act as a light in the darkness to soldiers suffering with PTSD, will continue to spread hope and make others feel less alone and more understood. I love their Footprints In the Sand.

There are others who came from disadvantaged neighborhoods/countries or special circumstances that encourage others to never give up.

We Are Never
Invisible to God 

This month I reread The Invisible Woman: When Only God Sees by Nicole Johnson. I was reminded again that nothing we do needs to be noticed or praised by people. Focusing our hearts on God alone and what He sees changes our perspective in life.

The story that especially touched my heart is that of one of the workers building a great cathedral. He was carving a tiny bird that eventually would be covered by the stone roof. Someone asked him why he was spending so much time and giving so much attention to something that no one would ever see. The builder continued carving and replied,

“Because God sees.”

Years later Martin Luther urged people to have the same perspective:

“Milking a cow was no less holy than giving an offering. Luther believed that a housewife had as great a calling as a high priest, and that both should perform his or her work as though God alone were watching. Holiness comes from God and from the heart of the person doing the work, not from the work itself.”

© Nicole Johnson (from book The Invisible Woman)

Nature is a Retreat of Hope

“The best remedy for those who are
afraid, lonely or unhappy
is to go outside, somewhere
where they can be quite alone
with the heavens, nature, and God.”
Anne Frank
Photos from Our Ever-Changing Falls

Bird Photos From My Brother John in Arizona
Immature Black-crowned Night Heron
Gray Hawk
Possibly an Immature Sharp Shinned Hawk
Immature Red-Tailed Hawk

 

Recover The Interests God Has Created In You

child-and-earth

God created each of us with unique interests. Finding those interests can help us to better understand who He has created us to be and help us to better use them to glorify Him.

Sometimes these interests get buried under painful memories, and it takes intentional work to recover them. Working through our pain can remove the blinders from our eyes, so we can more easily see what we loved as a child. To remember what made us feel alive and more hopeful in the midst of the darkness.

As a child, I didn’t know a loving Jesus. To me, God was angry, vengeful, and unapproachable. But as I look back, a God of love was still at work even though I didn’t see, feel, or know Him. He created in me interests that I now see as ways He made my life more bearable.

One of my fond memories was when my brother and I brought our Holstein cows from the pasture to the barnyard for milking. I loved smelling the country air and feeling it on my face. Hearing the frogs chirp in the creek making a ribbon through our pasture. Seeing the killdeer drawing us away from their nests with a shrill “Kill-deee! Kill-deee!”

“Kaaa Boss!” we would yell. Many of the cows would come when called and would head home in a long line, but there were usually those who stayed in the back of the pasture until we rounded them up.

I loved walking barefoot but it was kind of tricky when there were thistles to dodge. Once I didn’t see a dead one and stepped right into it. Ouch! My foot was still stinging when I plopped it smack dab in the middle of a cow pie so fresh it was still steaming. Yuck! And yet I remember the warm, soothing feeling squishing up between my toes. It actually helped take the sting out of my foot!

I loved animals, both the farm ones and wildlife. I was even intrigued by the ones others might call creepy, like bugs, spiders, and snakes. 🙂

Animals became a part of my dreams, too. I wanted to be a marine biologist. I wanted to study chimpanzees or gorillas like Jane Goodall.

As I grew into a teenager, I also dreamed of owning an orphanage. I wanted every child to feel loved and cared about. I wanted to shield them from all harm. I never got what I wanted, but God did give me children to care for. As a teacher, then a mother, and now a grandmother. Sometimes my heart aches for all the children in this world, and I wish I could protect them all from evil. I know I can’t though and I have to give them into the hands of Jesus who loves children and invites them to come to Him. What I can do is be a part of making every child I meet feel noticed, loved, and cherished.

Not all our dreams come to reality in our lives and seasons in our lives change. Sometimes because of circumstances, we have to let go of pursuits that gave us such joy, and that can be painful. Sometimes even those dreams we have that line up with passions we feel God has given us fall by the wayside. We don’t always understand why, but God can help us to grieve and move forward into the plan He has for each of us.

Through the heavy weight of not dealing with past abuse in my life, the long, difficult road of finally dealing with it, and this continuing journey of healing, there were and still are times I cannot see, feel, or appreciate the deep-seated interests God has given me. But God still preserves the makeup of who I am. Both children and nature still bring me joy and hope. I am still fascinated by the complexities of God’s creatures. All of God’s creation is God’s gift of love and grace. It inspires me to open my heart to His beauty and remember He is in control of our lives.

His creation includes you. I really do care about you readers. I don’t know you all by name, but God does, and I can still pray for you. I long for you to know the joy and salvation there is in Jesus. And I long for Him to set you free to recover interests He Himself has given you. Those interests that make you who you are.

Are there God-created loves inside you that got buried in the heaviness of life’s troubles? Interests you had as a child that made you feel more alive and hopeful even when you didn’t know God? Do you take time to enjoy them today as God’s way to give you more hope in the midst of the turmoil of our hearts, lives, and world?

If you are one of those children who were so abused and neglected that you weren’t allowed to enjoy anything or truly discover where your interests lie, I’m so very sorry. I hope you have gotten or will get help to work through the pain and to recover them. I pray God will uncover and revive the special person He made you to be, that unique, wonderful person He filled with special gifts and interests meant to glorify Him.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14a

“For we are God’s masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”
Ephesians 2:10

“Wonderfully Made”
Matthew West

signature2

Soul Rest in Nature: Hope Bursts Forth in Radiant Colors

nature

“What’s she doing? Who would want to take a picture of cattails anyway?”

“I would…” I said to myself.

DSC_0742

I love walking the trails of Outdoor Campus here in Sioux Falls where nature is kept as natural and unspoiled as possible. At the end of a trail, one must walk on the sidewalk of the entrance road into the park. Across the road are cattails. Last year I was walking a few feet behind three women. The one with the camera walked to the cattails to take pictures when one woman voiced her opinion.

DSC_0282 I guess everyone has a right to their own perspective of nature’s paintings. I admired the woman who was soaking up snapshots of everything she could of God’s canvas.

I have fond memories of cattails. I grew up on a farm, and I loved plucking the ripened, fluffy seeds from them and letting them float away with the wind to places nobody but God knows.

The truth is if we don’t venture across the road to see the cattails, we miss other hidden surprises. Behind those tall, stately, brown-suited plants is a pond. And sometimes there are even ducks on the pond.

DSC_0741

I never find anything mundane in nature. There always seems to be something new to surprise me, just like when I read the Bible. Something pops out that I didn’t notice after so many times of reading it. God’s Word and nature are so synchronized. Both resound with His voice.

When I went to the Outdoor Campus last week, I asked God, “Will You show me something new today?” As I walked there were so many various thrilling bird calls that I thought: Ah, hearing this is a beautiful surprise already that I never grow tired of. But then a cardinal flew in a few feet from me. He flew away before I could get a photo, but the rich red feathers, black mask around his eyes, and the distinguished red tuft are still etched in my memory bank. Thank You, God. Since then I have found out that the various calls I was hearing were all from cardinals. Did you know they have about two dozen different songs? Wow!

As I returned on the sidewalk I mentioned, I crossed the road to the cattails, and I found another surprise. Usually I see mallard ducks, but this time I saw what I think was a female wood duck.

DSC_0745

Nature remains one of my favorite soul-resting whitespaces.

God desires to show us
He is still with us.
If our eyes and ears
Are attuned to His voice,
We will be surprised
And even fascinated
By what He gives,
And hope will burst forth
In radiant colors.


DSC_0719

 

DSC_0698

 

DSC_0720

 

DSC_0722

 

DSC_0706

 

DSC_0708

 

DSC_0718

 

DSC_0688

 

DSC_0749

 

“We need to find God,
and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness.
God is the friend of silence.
See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence;
see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…
We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
– Mother Teresa

signature3

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

Whitespace Writing Prompt:
“Share a Whitespace Moment This Week”

A Soft Gentle Voice